Friday, September 25, 2009

Nice Girls Don't Ask

At least that’s been my experience.

After years as a boss, having worked with somewhere close to 1000 employees over that time, it’s hard not to notice. Men tend to ask for what they want – and women don’t.

I am specifically referring to things like raises, bonuses, and promotions. Of course there are exceptions to this. Every now and then I meet women who know exactly what they want and have no qualms about asking. They are rare and often have strong executive (usually male) mentors. Men, on the other hand – well as a general rule, they ask.

Now, I’m not saying they get everything they ask for – or even any of it.
Nor do I believe that it’s the norm for anyone (male or female) to get something undeserved just because they ask.

But the men that worked for me (yes, I’m generalizing) kept a drumbeat going all year long so that I knew their expectations. For some it was once a week, for others once a quarter was enough. I’m not suggesting that they were unreasonable. They simply made a point of – well, pointing it out.

The women more frequently believed that they would get what they deserve; their boss should notice their great contributions and reward them accordingly. They expected their boss to be fair. Again, not unreasonable.

Does it matter? Consider this:

If a boss has an extra $50 he can give to an employee for salary increases once he’s done due diligence and been equitable, who might get it? The person who made it clear that they expect more than 1% this year, or the one who said nothing? It may not seem like much, but it adds up over time.

Or there’s a job opening up. It might be a promotion or it might just be a great opportunity. The boss can put only one name on the slate. Will it be Jack, who’s made it clear he wants an opportunity, or Jane, who never asked? Jane is happy where she is, and Jack will be happy for the opportunity. It’s a win-win, right?

I think it does matter. If you’re not convinced, read the Carnegie-Mellon experiment noted in this Washington Post article by Shankar Vedantam.

What is your experience? Do you ask?


Anonymous said...

definitely matters, if nothing else its about recall, when you think of who wants this, the name that comes up most likely, unless that individual has done something to tick you off, is the one that has been berating you about it to start with.

The squeaky wheel gets the oil.

Anonymous said...

Dead on. When I pushed for a raise one time I had been promised I was really squirming about it. My boss said "Stop! No one will ever care as much about your salary as you do. You have the right to ask." Powerful words!

I notice the same thing at Women in Technology events. Women often don't ask for what they want during a networking event and as a result, don't reap the same benefits.

Firefly said...

A big hooray for that boss! I tell all the women that work for me -- and women that I mentor -- that they need to ask. If we want a level playing field then let's level it!

Anonymous said...

So true.. I could completely relate to this post. Somewhere, I think, women feel shy to ask! We feel we are going one step below by "asking". But when things went totally out of hand I have asked.. in fact I have demanded!! And I am happy I did... I got what I wanted plus I made it clear that I deserve better than this.

I am completely loving your blogs ( I even commented on your linked topic on sabbatical). Having worked in the Big Blue myself , I can relate to a lot of your posts. I am on a break now and I have given myself the assignment of reading most of your blogs this week :-)


Colette said...

Divya, I'm glad you found the blog! Welcome and thanks for weighing in.